dinner-tableFinally carved out a night for your family to sit down and eat a meal together? Eating dinner together provides parents with a valuable opportunity to model basic face-to-face social skills and etiquette. These skills are increasingly important to develop in an era where much of our children’s communication is conducted through technology. Now that you are all present, make mealtime fun by trying one of these games, sure to spark conversation between you and your children and strengthen your relationship with one another.

Not sure how to get the family together for a meal? Velazquez offers the following tips:

• Try breakfast, lunch or snack time together if dinner won’t work.

• Start a tradition. Make Friday night taco night or Sunday spaghetti night.

• Involve the entire family in meal planning, which will also help kids learn to plan and prepare meals.

• Depending on your child’s age put him in charge of preparing dinner once a week.

1) Two truths and a falsehood. Not only does this game appeal to my children’s
imaginations, I can usually learn something new about their day that they forgot to tell me. To play, go around the table and take turns sharing two events that really happened that day and one that did not. Who can guess which one is false?

2) Draw forth a discussion. Christie Zemencik, a mom of three children, ages 18, 14 and 7, says she covers the table with butcher paper and puts crayons out. “My girls draw or write random things that usually lead to conversations as to why that was on their minds,” she says.

3) High-Low. Many families discuss the ups and downs of the day to get conversation rolling. Adrienne Dreher, mother of two boys, ages 6 and 3, calls discussion of the day’s highs and lows “HOO-HAHS!”
“Your HOO! is your favorite part of the day. Your HAH! is your least favorite part,” she says.

4) Conversation in a jar. Karen Conklin, mom of three, ages 8, 6 and 2, created a jar with dinnertime conversation starters on strips of paper.
“An example is ‘Name two people that made you smile today and why,” she says. Her children enjoy adding conversation ideas to the jar, too.

5) Table topics. Julie Melchior, a mom of three children, ages 14, 11 and 8, says she purchased a pack of Christmas-themed conversation questions last year. Each night the family selected a card to discuss.
“The kids couldn’t wait to sit down and get the cards passed out,” Melchior says. “It was so interesting for my husband and me to listen to their answers and hear what they remembered from their past holidays. It gave everyone an opportunity to share and listen and we talked about things that probably wouldn’t come up in normal dinner time conversation.”
Find Kid Talk: Conversation Cards, Crunch a Color Conversation Starters, Chat Packs or Table Topics at area retailers, book stores or online.

Freelance journalist Christa Melnyk Hines loves to find new ways to “chat and chew” with her family, which includes her husband and their two sons.